Best Buy gears up for iPad sales; should publishers go retail? packaging publications like software

Eight day until launch and Best Buy is gearing up to start selling Apple’s iPad tablet at stores that current have dedicated store-within-a-store space for Apple products.
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MacRumors is reporting that the retail giant does not plan on opening early on Saturday, April 3 to accommodate iPad buyers as the store already enjoys a near monopoly on iPad retail sales — buys can also pre-order the tablet on the Apple web site or go to an Apple retail store, as well.

As more and more publishers begin to get into the applications market, building apps for iPhones, Android, and now for the iPad, publishers find themselves involved in retail sales in a way they have not been before. Suddenly their newspaper or magazine is competing not only with other publications, but with games, business software, and music, video and movies.
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I entered the newspaper business at the tail end of the golden years, a time when newspaper still spent money on radio and TV advertising, when soliciting for readership door-to-door was still the norm. My first professional job after getting my J degree was answering calls coming into the classified department after radio ads played our commercial (Two lines, ten days, five dollars!).

Now, newspapers are putting their product into the iTunes store, a place that contains no promotional space, and waiting for readers to find it. Sure they are letting their existing readership know about the app by printing a one inch story in their print editions, or putting up a button ad on their web sites — but come on! its time to market!

The first time I saw those iTunes gift cards at a retail store I thought Apple had lost their minds. Why buy this card for $25 when all one needs to do is go online and buy what you want? My closed mind didn’t realize they were targeting parents who wanted to give a their kids access to the online store where a credit card would be needed. The gift card, though, gave those under 18 the ability to create an account and get $25 worth of credit.

What convinced me that this was a great idea was two things I started seeing: 1) computer and iPod buyers picking up the cards as a way of accessorizing their purchases; and 2) iTunes cards showing up in all sorts of other retail stores — grocery stores, for instance. Suddenly iTunes was everywhere.

Why can’t publications do the same? There are obstacles, for sure. One is that all purchases of apps must go through the iTunes store. But are rebates prohibited? A publication charging a hefty subscription price could have the sale go through the iTunes store, where Apple can get their full commission, but the purchase of that retail box might qualify the buyer to receive a rebate.

I don’t know what is possible, but if I were a newspaper or magazine I would be in contact with Apple to find out and begin exploring new ways to start selling their wares the way software companies do.

And what about the MPA, ABM and NAA — the trade associations for the publishing world — are they in conversation with Apple to discuss bundling rules, retail sales of product outside of iTunes, and other issues that effect their members? They should be, right?

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